From Concept to Completion: A Step by Step Guide to Creating an Ink Drawing

Let me take you through the process of how I created a single drawing from my Watership Down series. We'll look at the drawing for the rabbit "Cowslip," which turned out to be a very interesting plant to draw. (For more information on the series, please read this article on the process of creating this entire body of work.)

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I tried a couple of positions for Cowslip in thumbnails, but I immediately liked the first one and redrew it without much variation. That's how I knew I was set on this composition. I drew a value sketch to finalize the idea.

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I wanted the body of each rabbit to touch at least one side of the drawing, but more if possible, so I started off with Cowslip's ears and tail touching an edge, but his placement in the square proved to be too high. Thankfully working with bond paper means my sketches are easy to trace, so it's easy to move elements around in a drawing. Cowslip's sketch didn't change much from his concept, I only had to fill in the areas with the plant. I found that using a couple of different levels of magnification on the plant worked best for creating and interesting composition.

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I transfer my sketches onto a thicker bristol paper by tracing them over a layer of homemade transfer paper. It's easy to make, just take a soft pencil and cover a sheet of paper about the size of your drawing. I also use a layer of tracing paper on top so I don't ruin the original sketch. I like to use a red pencil so I can see clearly where I've traced. The result gives me a soft pencil outline for inking.

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I started each piece by inking the rabbit. They were usually the foremost subject in the drawing and rarely had things overlapping them. I would use my thickest lines for the rabbit's body and then steadily move from the foreground backward into the drawing.

I experimented with different brush pens over the course of this series. Cowslip's body was done with a medium Pigma, but the small details of the flower bunches were done with a Faber-Castell brush pen. I switched back and forth between these brushes for most of the series as they quickly became my favourites. After the main lines are done, I erase the pencil guides on the paper. Thankfully the paper is thick enough that I never bent or creased the paper from erasing.

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With the brush pen lines finished, I lapsed back into old habits and grabbed a no 3 Micron pen for the shading lines. I was able to fill in these lines that much faster and the fixed width of the pen gave me consistency. I used correction fluid to take out some of the lines on Cowslip's face. There were too many and it wasn't giving his face a good shape. I try to use correction fluid sparingly, but it's there when I need it.

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Next I scan and digitally clean up the drawing to get it ready for its online debut. I try to clean up as much of the drawing as possible physically so that the only digital corrections I need to do are removing specks from the scanner and adjusting the contrast and colour of the paper (though since this series is black and white that part was easy). Then I pop the scan into a photoshop file with all my presets and a watermark and save it as a jpg optimized for web use.

The finished result is ready to go online! You can see the rest of the series on Facebook and Tumblr (also on Instagram and Twitter, though you may have to scroll). I've also written a more in depth look at my creative process for the entire series in this article here.